The Challenging Questions and Answers Facing Parents
Does my child have ADD, ADHD, or another attention stealing disorder like Central Auditory Processing (CAP) Disorder? If you have ever asked yourself this question – you are not alone. Everywhere we turn in the news and in our education systems we hear that ADHD is on the rise. More children than ever are diagnose with ADD. And if your child does tend to be the squirmiest one in the classroom or the most forgetful one of his friends, you might also be subject to well-meaning family and friends suggesting their own diagnoses. But before you are ready to fill a prescription or sign your child up for special education classes at school, consider all of the information.
Attention! Is Your Child Distracted?
Our kids are silly putty. They are pulled and stretched in every conceivable direction. The seemingly endless distractions of over-the-top schedules, technology at every turn, and constant hum or noises in our environments can take a toll on our children’s ability to focus. This lack of ability to focus, however, does not mean that kids necessarily have a disability.
According to teachers and doctors from the Oxford Learning Center (an organization that helps to treat people with learning and behavioral disabilities):
It is time to stop making kids into victims. Using the most modern tests and checklists, competent professionals are identifying kids with ADD at an alarming rate. Once this diagnosis has been made, these kids are identified as having a deficit! When we are confronted with a child who does not seem to be able to pay attention, our first assumption should not be that they cannot pay attention, but rather that they are just not paying attention.
The above statement is so powerful for parents. It helps to give us back some responsibility and even control in an environment where society is fairly quick to diagnose and label. It seems that too often it is easier for classroom control or to ease the frustration of worn out parents if there is a label disability or behavior because then a professional treatment plan can become available – and that can be very comforting. However, it might mask the real, underlying issues.
ADD or Something Else?
There are many causes for the symptoms that lead to the diagnoses of ADD, ADHD, or similar disorders. Anxiety, unidentified learning styles such as kinesthetic learning, and even allergies and medical conditions can cause children to have some of the most common symptoms of attention deficit disorders.
If you’re struggling with concerns about whether or not your child has ADD or ADHD, you’ve probably heard of some of these warning signs.
- Difficulty following directions
- Difficulty completing assignments
- Difficulty organizing activities
- Challenges with time management
- Impulsive behaviors
- Fidgety behaviors and trouble remaining seated
- Interrupts regularly and seems to lack a verbal filter
These and so many other symptoms often send parents to the pediatrician, looking for answers and help. The truth is that according to medical specialists, many children do have legitimate diagnoses of attention deficit disorders, and many children are also misdiagnosed. I’ve played the wonder-game. It is draining and emotionally exhausting. But it is worth it to dig as deep as you can go and then dig a bit deeper.
Testing for ADD and ADHD
If you are searching for direction and struggling with a child who just can’t seem to focus or pay attention and you have been led down the ADD or ADHD path, there are many tests and tools that are available to you, your child’s school, and medical specialist. No one, two, or even three tests should be used to confirm a diagnosis. Keep digging and use as many tools as available to make sure the path you are on with your child is his or her reality.
- ADD-H Comprehensive Teacher’s Rating Scale – This scale helps to differentiate between ADD and ADHD.
- Conners Teacher Rating Scale – This is what your child’s teacher probably used if you received a recommendation to follow-up with a medical specialist.
- Conners Parent Rating Scale – This is similar to the teacher scale and the two can be used to make sure that the situations that are observed in school are the same as those at home.
- Child Behavior Checklist by Achenbach – Another tool for teachers that consists of 112 questions.
- Home Situation Questionnaire (HSQ) – There are more than a dozen categories included and parents are asked to judge the typical behaviors of their children.
- Tracking Lists – Behavioral lists that parents use to monitor behaviors over time.
Accurate and thorough diagnoses of attention deficit disorders cannot typically be made in an afternoon after marking a few boxes and answering “yes” to certain questions. Evaluation of several skill areas is essential to making sure that parents are headed in the right directions with their kids.
- Oral language
- Non-verbal intelligence
- Cognitive skills
- Auditory processing capabilities
- Building Attention and Focus Skills
Building Attention and Focus Skills
There are many things our developing children can’t do. They have to grow into their abilities, and some need more direction and teaching than others. Focus and attention skills are so infinitely imperative for our children that when we are faced with situations where they clearly lack these skills, it can be frustrating and even frightening. We begin to ask ourselves if we are missing something – if something such as ADD and ADHD could be the cause.
If this is your struggle as a parent, find resources that help you filter through the jargon and the rhetoric. A wonderful comparison I found through the Oxford Learning Centre is this:
Consider the following: You would never say, “My child cannot play the piano! He must have piano disability!” If your child cannot play the piano, the reason is usually that he has never learned how! Why then, when a child cannot pay attention, do we first assume that he must have a deficit? We need to adopt a major paradigm shift. A change in our thinking keeps paying attention in the realm of the possible. It assumes that, before we panic and turn to medicine and other drastic measures, we will attempt to teach the child how to pay attention. It assumes that the child has something to do with this, that the child will be, and has to be, a willing and major participant in the process. It is an active process, not a passive one.
Whether your child has a solid diagnosis of ADHD, ADD, a processing disorder, or another similar condition, or you are just struggling to teach your child the skills needed to focus and pay attention, there are great resources and easy steps we can use in the home. Next week I’ll have a list of resources, games, and activities you can use with your child to build focus skills and increase attention spans. The road is not always easy – but if we wear the right kinds of shoes we can walk it more smoothly.